Volunteer Management is only part of my job!
As an Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service, I have a primary duty and what we call "collateral duties." These duties are delegated differently for each park site, depending on their size, visitation, and number of staff.
The park where I work is so small (and rarely visited) that Im it. I do all the delegated duties related to public contact. My primary job is to design and lead public programs, and shuttle visitors to our park (remote location). My collateral duties include (but are not limited to) fielding phone reservations, updating the website, keeping track of visitor statistics, promoting community outreach, coordinating the public relations, maintaining information files and the resource library, developing visitor center exhibits and .managing the volunteer program.
Phew! Its a lot. Its challenging. And its rewarding. How does it all get done? With the help of volunteers. Currently, there are seven active volunteers in my park and they help tremendously. Mostly, they take visitors on guided tours through the historic home. They connect people to the resource we are preserving and share their passion for a subject that inspires them. This one contribution alone is a way for the community to get involved in our park, and the park to get involved in the community.
By providing training, special events and recognition, the volunteers develop a sense of dedication and desire to contribute. Volunteer management is a two-way street between staff and volunteers, where both assist each other to accomplish a need and a love.
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Training Volunteers Goes Beyond Teaching Skills
I just completed a four Saturday Tour Guide Skills training with our current and potential new volunteers. Even though it was training designed to encourage new volunteers, the class was mostly current volunteers. When they saw the announcement for a formal skills training opportunity, they lined up. What surprised me most is these people had been guiding tours for 5-6 years. But I wasnt going to discourage them.
It turns out this was the first time a training this extensive was offered in my park. When our current tour guides had volunteered, each was trained one-on-one with varying amounts of guidance and inconsistent material.
This experience made me realize how important it is to get everyone on the same page, not only because it is more professional, but because the volunteers were craving it. The opportunity was not only a time to enhance or refresh their skills, but network with other people and be together as a team.
Training is more than an effective tool to teach something new. It is a way to give volunteers a chance to explore new techniques, exchange ideas, and socialize. It is also a way to provide compensation to those who give so much and to discover what volunteers need in order to help the organization.
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Take Pride in America
In April 2003, the United States Department of Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, announced a new initiative that aims to increase volunteer service on America's public lands called Take Pride in America. This is part of President George W. Bush's USA Freedom Corps, which seeks to encourage Americans to volunteer in their local communities.
"[It] will empower volunteers from every corner of America to restore and improve our parks, refuges, recreation areas and cultural and historical sites," Norton explained. "The program inspires citizen stewardship through a bold and innovative public communication campaign. Outstanding volunteer efforts are rewarded with presidential recognition."
To learn more about the Take Pride in America program, click on the links below to view full-color PDF files.
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Margaret Styles has been an Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service since 1997. She is currently working at Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in Danville, California and Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial in Concord, California. She manages the public programming, public relations and volunteer program, as well as guiding visitors through both sites. Previous employment includes Yellowstone, Death Valley, Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Presidio of San Francisco, New England Aquarium, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and San Francisco Recreation & Parks.
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